Tuk Tuk’ing around in Thailand

by Narelle Webber on Monday, 14 October 2013

Exploring the old city of Chiang Mai by rick-shaw (c) Jenna Lockley, an ISV Thailand alumni

Public transport in Thailand is very fun to use and often an adventure itself. There are many Tuk Tuks, Sawngthaews, taxis, buses, ferries, trains, rick-shaws or long-tail boats that will enable you to get around the country.  On ISV’s volunteer and travel programs in Thailand you’re bound to use most of these transport options during your trip!

Tuk Tuks are essentially a motorised rickshaw or Pedi cab that has derived their name by the sound they make when operating. Before jumping on one of the many Tuk Tuks, the fare should be established, by bargaining if necessary!

Rick shaws are one of Thailand’s oldest forms of transport. In many parts of Thailand these pedal powered people movers are gone, but in Chiang Mai they are still a vibrant and useful form of transporting people from one open market to another during the busy rush hour period.

Sawngthaews (meaning ‘two rows’) are another classic Thai transport common in many major tourist areas and cities. These small pick-up trucks with two rows of bench seats down both sides of the truck can be an inexpensive way to get about. Most carry up to 10 passengers. Sawngthaews often run on fixed routes like a typical bus service, although they can be arranged for special transfers. Catching a Sawngthaew from any tourist spot to another is very easy. A driver will ask you if you need a ride rather then you finding a driver. The fare for Sawngthaews should be negotiated before getting on but in most cases should only be about 20-30 baht per person.

Taxis are another good mode of transport. Meter taxis will run a meter for the fare. With other taxis, the fare will have to be negotiated before departing. Be careful when jumping in meter taxis as often many drivers will not use the meter. If at all possible, have the location you wish to travel to written in Thai and insist on using the meter or find another taxi.

Local buses in the cities are relatively easy to use. Make sure to check the route you need and find the correct colour of bus before hopping on. Be sure to carry small denominations of bills such as 20 and 50 baht notes as fares are inexpensive and paying in small denominations is best.

Motorbike taxis or renting scooters or motorbikes are to be avoided. Accidents form this type of transport are the leading cause of deaths of foreigners overseas and it is for this reason that their use is prohibited on ISV’s Thailand Programs. While they might look exciting to try, your safety is more important.

Long-tail boats are the iconic Thai water transport. In Bangkok, long-tails run up and down the river and into the canals and at sea, they ferry people from the mainland to the thousands’ of islands that dot the coast. The name comes from the unique outboard engines which make it possible to navigate shallow waters.

Be safe and have fun travelling around Thailand.

To learn more about ISV’s programs in Thailand and other destinations, visit our website: www.isvolunteers.org


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